iphone as music platform.

I will be the first to admit that owning an iPhone rather than an iPod has resulted in a massive shift from listening to music, to watching video.  That said, it's still my primary music device, and it opens some interesting possibilities.  Two notable things I've seen:

Perennial BrokenGent favourite Nine Inch Nails are featured in a special addition version of Tap Tap Revenge, a simplified Guitar Hero / DDR style rhythm game.  Included are 13 tracks from The Slip and Ghosts I-IV, apparently personally selected by patron saint of the Future of Music, Trent Reznor.  On sale for $4.99 on the iTunes app store, this is a potential, though clearly untested, additional revenue stream.  Like a Rock Band download pack for your pocket.

This idea further positions music as an additive experience, which I think has been the core impact of the iPod.  At least this implementation keeps the music as an integral element of the experience.

The second thing is the free Apps that have popped up which duplicate and expand the functionality of liner notes, including the Snow Patrol one released.  It's an interesting experience, letting users dig through origami stars that contain lyrics, behind the scenes videos, etc.  This lets the iPhone app act as both a promotional tool for the album, and an addition to the album.  Nice incentive for purchase.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  The music business isn't about selling music, or plastic slabs that contain music.  Sell simplicity, background, a datashadow, immersion, an experience.  The music is the core element, but not the merch is where the money is.


on impositions.

I was watching the Obama infomercial last night, when I received a call from a charity hockey game, asking if I was interested in buying tickets or taking donations.  I generally follow my father's example in these situations, which more or less means being polite, hearing them out until I know what they want, and then saying 'No, thank you' ad infinitum until I feel justified in hanging up.

The first thing the woman said to me was 'It's nice to hear a pleasant voice, everyone either hangs up or yells at me.'

This would have been said, but she was essentially opening everything with an imposition at 8:05pm.  Irritation is acceptable. But it's difficult to build an outreach and awareness campaign without any imposition whatsoever.  'Permission marketing' is a good idea, but it's also based on existing awareness of a product or service, or a transactional 'for permission you get this newsletter/trinket/exclusive widget' model.  People need a core reason to hunt you down, merely offering things for them to learn about or try isn't enough.

Options include being remarkable, indispensable, or controversial.

Another option is to, carefully, impose on people.  It's irritating, bothersome, and increasingly being screened out.  But the funny thing is, a carefully targeted, remarkable / indispensable / controversial imposition is rarely considered as such.

If someone had called me at that time with a request for funds related to someone I care about deeply, or to ask if I was interested in receiving a package with information on something I care about, I probably would have considered talking to them.

This is why it all comes down to targeting for me.  Targeting offers the chance to make impositions, on a consumer level, obsolete.  Given, of course, that what you have on offer is of sufficient value to offset the irritation of a ringing phone or unsolicited email.


lessons in human failings.

The main thing I learned in the last month is that no matter what I am dependent on a mixture of my memory and my hearing.  This is one of the reasons my preference is for email, or another form of written communication.

I am addicted to having a paper trail.

The problem is, that having a paper trail in many cases demands repetition.  And people (myself included) have very little tolerance for repetition, especially in cases where technology is involved.

The solution is fairly simple - I would pay through the nose for a service that delivered automated transcripts of my phone conversations, or even of face to face conversations, to my email inbox.  Being able to point to the exact moment of communication breakdown would be essential, especially since it has become unavoidable that I conduct fairly important conversations over several media.

An increased dependence on technology means an increased demand for accuracy.  unfortunately, the rust between the gears is always human falliability.  Plan accordingly.


latest iphone realization.

I realized something while sitting at a stoplight, downloading an application from the mobile version of the iTunes application store onto my iPhone.

The ability to go 'Oh, I need a QR Code reader, right now', and add that functionality to my phone, while I'm standing outside, is creepily similar to the way Trinity asked for a download of helicopter pilot skills in The Matrix.

Except not quite as cool, and with less pleather.


normative music and the personal touch.

I came home to a package from the Normative Music Company.  Two important things to point out: 1) Normative founder Jakob Lodwick made the offer to send out these CDs to anyone who send him an email, with no cost.  2) He sent them to me, in Canada, without a second thought.  These are important points that curry my favour.

First, the music.  It’s good.  Francis and the Lights is great walking around music.  Good to listen to, good to think to, good to type to.  I’d definitely go see them live, if only to see how it measures up to the video for ‘The Top’ that Normative posted online.  I’d already heard the Vulture Realty disc, but it remains good nonetheless.

Second, the idea – The CDs came with a personalized, typed note, addressed to me, signed by Lodwick.  A nice touch by any means.  The disks were packaged in simple sleeves, solid photography on the front, reflecting the character of the music fairly faithfully.

And now, because I’m me, the criticisms.  Well, the criticism.  Only one.  And it’s not really anyone’s fault, but a CD died in my superdrive, the top layer flaking off.

I like the Normative Music Company.  Hopefully the personal touch, and the quality of the product, don’t falter as it grows.


oversimplifying the internets.

The Internet isn't one place.

I was reading the Toronto Star this morning, and (despite my ability to find evidence of this to link to) they've decided to stop printing online comments in the editorial page.  The thing that frustrated me isn't deciding that print content will be held to a different standard than online comments (anything should be held to a higher standard than online comments), it's that apparently someone suggested to these people that you cannot expect anyone online to use a real name, or write with correct grammar.

The Internet isn't one place.  Each location can, and does, establish it's own rules of engagement, expectations, and limitations on what is deemed acceptable.  One of the major problems print media has faced is finding the middle ground between refusing to change to incorporate the online readership, and flat out pandering to them.  If you want to print online comments in the Letters column, go ahead.  But let people know that comments won't be printed unless they are written fairly reasonably, and the writer is identified by a believable name.  Or, heavily moderate the comments, sending the message that people are welcome to enter the discussion, providing they want to maintain a suitable level of discourse.

Stop pretending the entire Internet is the same.  Because, nearly always, that assumption comes along with an inherent infantilization or criminalization of all 'digital natives'.  People who interact with others online are neither uniformly stupid, nor uniformly rebellious.  If you want to incorporate yourself into the online community, and incorporate the online community into your product, you need to figure out who you actually want to be spending that time interacting with.

If the future is social networking, being able to attract the suitable kind of people to your enterprise is more important than you think.


it's not your fault, and you can't fix it.

Continuing on the subject of radio ads, the ads for a product called Evercleanse have been inescapable.  They are also hilarious, but they make an interesting point when to comes to selling people products related to healt, wellness or fitness.

Evercleanse, in brief, is a product that contends your intestines and colon are filled with waste that is making you fat.  The waste is diet proof, immovable, and compared to 'spackle or paste'  That's right.  Evercleanse wants you to know that you aren't fat.  You don't need to diet or exercise.  You are merely filled with secret poo.

The genius part of this, for me, is that the ad opens with a condemnation of men: we're overweight due to fast food and overeating.  With women, it's a matter of secret poo, so diet and exercise won't do anything.

Convincing, and promising to customers that they are blameless, as opposed to those other people, is useful.  Convincing them that the effort they weren't going to put forward anyway would be wasted, is useful.

Where it falls apart for me is the suggestion that Evercleanse serves a need that no one else can serve.  Being a solution, or the best solution, or the only logical choice, is great.  Telling me you are the only possible solution leads me to question your credibility.  That, and the secret poo.

mcdonald's monopoly mishaps.

Yesterday morning I heard an ad for McDonald's yearly Monopoly contest.  I found it a little odd that the young woman speaking in the ad referenced her losing games of Monopoly constantlydue to her brother hiding the money is his pocket.

Does anyone else remember the mess a few years back, when McDonald's found out the company they had hired to run the promotion had been rigging it so family members of employees would win?

This is why things have to be run by a wider group of people.  I have the feeling some of the guys in McLegal would have remembered this, and felt like it draws attention to past incompetence.

Either that, or it was completely tongue in cheek, and I'm underestimating the genius of McDonald's


the shock doctrine.

First, the capsule review: the book is damn good, changed my opinion on Naomi Klein, and is highly recommended to anyone who wants to better understand the dangers of ideology being more important than evidence.  Go read it, and talk to your friends about how screwed up unregulated (or fundamentalist) capitalism is.

Now, what I actually learned from the book.  I've detested Klein's previous work.  No Logo bothered me for a lot of reasons, mostly the idea that there was something wrong with powerful, recognizable brands that resonated with large swathes of society, and influenced behaviour on a global scale.  If the point of the book had been that mis-using this power is wrong, it would have been obvious, laughed at, and unpublished.  By pretending that the danger somehow came from brands itself, it was edgy and revolutionary.  To most people, at least.

The Shock Doctrine however, attacks a specific brand of capitalism, and a specific type of behaviour.  The dangers of unregulated, unchecked behaviour is a reasonable target by any measure.  The book isn't an attack on capitalism in general (Libertarians may disagree), but an attack on an extreme form.  Most importantly, incontrast to Klein's earlier work, I could actually empathize with the victims.  Foreign economies that have been ruined by the greed of intervening governments are very different than disaffected upper middle class children protesting against the companies that employ their parents.

If you are going to condemn something, put together a narrative that shows you understand your target, the victims, and the reality of the situation.  Don't just decide that an entire branch of thinking or strategy is somehow evil, regardless of application or intent.  You have to creat a narrative that supports your opinions, whether in a book, or in a campaign.

To disregard unfairly is to be disregarded summarily.

[I'm still amused at how many of the people I know who read 'No Logo' did so because it was part of their Marketing / Advertising course readings in University or College.]


words to live by.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

In my opinion this quote very clearly explains the shifting stages in power dynamics, and the messaging that changes between large and small companies.  Which is why I've been applying it constantly, without realizing, to far too many conversations I've been having.

The important thing isn't applying this to yourself only when you are the little guy.  The truly important thing is to remember the dominant role in the story - if you can continue indefinitely against a competitor, either ignoring them or laughing at them, you are probably in good shape.  However, a competitior only gains status when you decide to start fighting them.  Don't give them the opportunity to win.

Keep laughing.


I'm obsessed with the art of presentation.  I've always cared more than most people about public speaking, but now I'm starting to get into powerpoint style slideshows as more than just a tool.  I'm fairly convinced they are one of the least utilized and most versatile forms of digital media available.

A slideshow can be expressed in a massive number of ways, using the exact same designs and words.  Taking the slides and using them as images, with the read text printed as words, and you have a magazine style article.  Take the slides themselves, and you can save them as individual images, a slideshare prezo, PDFs, or even printed copies that create a take home that will jog the memory of an audience.  Encode an MP3 album in iTunes format, with each slide being the album art for a 30 second vocal track.  Make a YouTube video that's just the stills and the audio.

This is all without the major use, standing in front of a group of people, regardless of size, and shaping their attention and time into a learning experience.

I'm obsessed with slideshows for the same reason I'm obsessed with memes.  You can throw a fully formed idea out there, in discrete units, and let it propagate on it's own, throughout a nearly endless list of forms.

More important than any of that is the fact that a good slideshow is one of the most impressive, interactive and multimedia things that someone can do on a computer with minimal ability, next to no equipment, and infinite repeatability.

I don't make enough slideshows.


oppositional / opportunity.

[Another poorly formatted mobile post.]

In a recent meeting, the issue of dealing with any backlash or undue
oppositional messaging came up, and my colleaguea and I made a few
comments to reassure everyone assembled. But it got me thinking,
especially in any situation with a strong web2.0 element, that there
is no credible reaction that doesn't inherently open an avenue to
further push positive messaging, and there are few unreasonable
responses that don't do the same to some degree.

A well thought out negative response is a chance to argue and
reiterate your point, expanding without seeming preachy, an
engendering sympathy. An irrational one actually supports your
message, by characterizing opposition as irrational.

Most importantly, oppositional messaging immediately legitimizes your
campaign and arguments. To paraphrase Gandhi, first the ignore you,
then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Though the
final result is far from certain, I've observed that any escalation in
those stages is usually of benefit from a communications standpoint.

Put even more bluntly, opposing your messages and work directly forces
your opposition or competition to let you define a portion of their
messaging, spending, creative, etc. For free. Because they are scared
or threatened.

Then you win.


five signs of fail: customer relations.

  1. It takes more than ten minutes to speak to a human, and identify the problem.
  2. Customers can google your flowchart, and  talk the CSR to the correct conclusion, more efficiently than they would actually be helped by the customer relations reps.
  3. A customer needs to be escalated to a higher level representative more than twice.
  4. There are more than five automated menus, in any circumstance, before speaking to a human.
  5. There is no direct communication between the customer service department, and people who can 1) make decisions, or 2) authorize refunds, repairs or replacements.
Five signs of fail for Customer Relations.  It's worth noting that around 95% of customer relations departments have all five of these problems.